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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 172, Part II, 3 September 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 172, Part II, 3 September 1999 A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by the staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. This is Part II, a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Part I covers Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia and is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of RFE/RL Newsline and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at RFE/RL's Web site: http://www.rferl.org/newsline xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES START TALKS WITH OPPOSITION * UCK TO BECOME CIVILIAN CORPS OR NEW ARMY? * UN 'REMOVES' KOSOVA FROM YUGOSLAV CURRENCY SYSTEM End Note: REFORMING THE BULGARIAN MILITARY xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES START TALKS WITH OPPOSITION. Four- strong delegations representing the authorities and the opposition began consultations at the OSCE Minsk mission office on 3 September, Belapan reported. The talks are focusing on the opposition's access to the state media. JM UKRAINIAN CABINET SETS MAIN 2000 BUDGET TARGETS... Despite the continued economic decline, the government has approved rather optimistic guidelines for the 2000 budget. It predicts 2 percent growth in GDP to 150.8 billion hryvni ($34.3 billion). Budget revenues are foreseen as exceeding expenditures by 500 million hryvni. According to UNIAN, this latter guideline was adopted to prevent the budget deficit from impacting on the "overall economic situation" and to provide funds to repay the country's foreign debt. Annual inflation is predicted at 12 percent, down from this year's envisaged rate of 19.1 percent. The hryvnya exchange rate is expected to fall from the current 4.4 to $1 to 5 hryvni to $1. The government indents to submit the budget draft to the parliament by 15 September. JM ...VOWS TO FULFILL IMF CONDITIONS FOR NEXT TRANCHE. The government has sent a letter to the IMF confirming that it has met all requirements necessary to receive the next IMF loan tranche. A final decision on the last major requirement- -an increase in tariffs on public utilities--is to be taken before the IMF Board of Directors meeting on 7 September. Deputy Premier Serhiy Tyhypko, who is heading a Ukrainian delegation to talks with the IMF in Washington, said that "the only thing Ukraine needs to show are good incomes from natural gas auctions because we are searching for a way to pay off our social payments which is the only stressful issue for us," according to the 3 September "Eastern Economic Daily." JM LATVIAN PARLIAMENT DEFEATS GOVERNMENT'S AMENDMENT TO PORT LAW. By a vote of 34 to 40 with 13 abstentions, lawmakers on 2 September defeated a government-supported amendment to the law on ports, LETA reported. The controversial measure would have restricted Riga, Ventspils, and Liepaja in disputes with the government over appointments to the boards of those municipalities' ports. The measure, which the government had passed by decree during a parliamentary recess, was heavily criticized by Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs. Lembergs is widely considered an arch-enemy of Prime Minister Andris Skele. MH LITHUANIAN CENTRAL BANK TO LIQUIDATE FAILED BANK. The Lithuanian Central Bank on 2 September announced it will begin bankruptcy proceedings against the failed Litimpeks Bank (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 1999). The Central Bank has asked the Vilnius District Court to revoke the banking license of Litimpeks and for a receiver to assume control of the bank's operations, ELTA reported. The Deposit Insurance Fund said it may need to pay out some 24 million litas ($6 million) if Litimpeks is indeed declared bankrupt. BNS added that an audit conducted in mid-August showed the bank's liabilities exceed assets by almost 10 million litas ($2.5 million). Litimpeks accounts for only 2.2 percent of Lithuania's banking market. MH POLISH CABINET APPROVES RESTITUTION LAW DRAFT. The government on 2 September approved a draft law that will partly compensate people whose property was confiscated by the Communist regime from 1944-1962. The government estimates that there will be some 170,000 property restitution claims totaling 130 billion zlotys ($32.5 billion) once the bill is adopted by the parliament and signed by the president. Under the draft, successful claimants will receive compensation to the tune of 50 percent of the value of their former assets. Such compensation will take the form of either the property itself or stock in state-owned companies undergoing privatization. JM POLISH DEPUTY PREMIER RESIGNS OVER LUSTRATION. Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Janusz Tomaszewski tendered his resignation on 2 September, following his sacking by Premier Jerzy Buzek (see "RFE/RL's Newsline," 2 September 1999). Tomaszewski said he resigned in keeping with his former pledge to step down if the Lustration Court decided to check the accuracy of his lustration statement. The same day, Polish Television confirmed the widespread rumor that the court has begun examining whether Tomaszewski collaborated with the Communist secret services. On 3 September, President Aleksander Kwasniewski approved Tomaszewski's dismissal/resignation. JM CZECH OPPOSITION LEADER EVASIVE ON POLITICAL FUTURE. Civic Democratic Party leader Vaclav Klaus told "Hospodarske noviny" on 3 September that the continuation of the present social and economic stagnation is a "horrible thought," CTK reported. Klaus admitted that the so-called "opposition agreement" with the Social Democratic minority government has been "a failure" but said that for the time being there is no alternative. Klaus said he wants early elections under a new electoral law that would make it possible for one party to create a majority in the parliament. But he added that he doubts whether the necessary 120 signatures in favor of early elections could be gathered in the Chamber of Deputies. MS CZECH DEPUTY PREMIER SAYS HE WILL NOT RESIGN. Egon Lansky on 2 September said on Frekvence 1 Radio that he will not tender his resignation over having opened an account in Austria in violation of current regulations, CTK reported. He said he has committed a misdemeanor comparable to "parking a car improperly" and that he did not commit it "as a member of the cabinet." He added that he will ask the Senate's Immunity Committee to strip him of parliamentary immunity so that the case can be properly investigated. MS HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS MEETING IN PRAGUE. Hundreds of Jewish children who survived the Holocaust in Nazi concentration camps are meeting in Prague on 3 September. This is their 12th meeting and the first to take place in a former communist country, CTK reported. Some of the events will take place in the former concentration camp of Theresienstadt. The conference is organized by the Hidden Child Praha organization in cooperation with the Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust. Roma representatives are among the honorary guests. MS RACIALIST LEAFLETS DISTRIBUTED IN EASTERN SLOVAKIA. Jozef Cervenak, chairman of the Roma-Gemer civic association in Roznava, said on 2 September that racialist leaflets have been placed in Roma mailboxes in the town. The leaflets called on "the white man" to stand up and defend what is his "by right in the name of [his] ancestors," CTK reported. Meanwhile, CTK cited the Finnish FNB agency as reporting that the Finnish authorities have processed and turned down all 300 out of the 1,100 requests for political asylum received from Roma who arrived in Finland over the last two months. MS POLICE RAID EDITORIAL OFFICE OF BUDAPEST DAILY. Hungarian police on 2 September raided the offices of the financial daily "Vilaggazdasag" to search for the original of a list of "VIP account-holders" who received preferential loans from Hungary's Postabank. Detectives also searched the car and home of chief editor Andras Banki and Laszlo Illisz, the journalist who published the list in the 30 August issue of the daily. Banki said the original list, which gave the names and loan amounts of more than 100 politicians and other prominent personalities, has been destroyed. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE UCK TO BECOME CIVILIAN CORPS OR NEW ARMY? "The New York Times" on 3 September reported that officials of NATO, the UN, and the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) have agreed that some 3,000 guerrillas will soon become a "lightly-armed civilian emergency force." Western officials described the new corps as a civilian force that will deal with emergencies such as "forest fires, earthquakes, mountain rescue, and reconstruction." The corps will have a military organization, however, as well as uniforms and "sidearms to protect equipment," the daily continued. It will also have helicopters. UCK officers "see it as a potential core of a national army, and are selling it to their followers as such." General Agim Ceku, who is the UCK's chief of staff, said: "We will build a new army in the future, and the Kosova Corps will be one part of it." A KFOR spokesman stressed, however, that the corps is not a new army but rather a form of "uniformed public service." PM THACI APPEALS TO SERBS. The UCK's Hashim Thaci said in London on 2 September that Kosova's Serbs should return "because we are interested in establishing in Kosova a multi-ethnic society." The UNHCR previously estimated that 170,000 of Kosova's 200,000 Serbs fled the province during or since the recent conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 1999). Also on 2 September, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj said in Belgrade that Serbian police must return to Kosova "as soon as possible" to ensure the safety of local Serbs. He stressed that "if there are no peaceful means available, we shall have to find other ways" to enable Serbian forces to return to the province. PM UN 'REMOVES' KOSOVA FROM YUGOSLAV CURRENCY SYSTEM. A spokeswoman for Bernard Kouchner, who is the UN's chief civilian administrator in Kosova, said on 3 September in Prishtina that he has issued an order allowing currencies other than the Yugoslav dinar to legally circulate Kosova. She added that Kouchner's own office will use German marks. It will accept dinars only for an additional fee, dpa reported. Observers note that since KFOR forces entered Kosova in June, local ethnic Albanians have generally refused to use dinars, which they regard as a symbol of Serbian rule. The Serbian authorities are certain to protest Kouchner's decision as a violation of Yugoslav sovereignty in Kosova. In practice, the German mark has been the second currency throughout the former Yugoslavia for decades. PM AUSTRALIAN SAYS SERBS TORTURED HIM. Steve Pratt, who is one of the two Australian aid workers just released from prison by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, said in Sydney on 3 September that he confessed to spying under duress (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 1999). He said that he made the confession in April after his Serbian captors told him "to cooperate or be strangled," Reuters reported. Australian Prime Minister John Howard said that he will investigate Pratt's charge, which he said he has not heard before. PM U.S. AIR FORCE: DOWNED PILOTS RESCUED FROM SERBIA SWIFTLY. An Air Force spokesman said in Hurlburt Field, Florida, on 2 September that the military used highly sophisticated technology in order to rescue two U.S. airmen downed in Serbia on 26 March and 2 May, respectively. In each case the pilots were rescued within hours of crashing. The helicopters that picked them up spent "less than one minute" on the ground. PM PARTY MEMBERSHIP A KEY TO SERBIAN JOBS? In response to an "initiative" by Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia, local employers in Pozarevac have signed contracts with 105 young professionals, the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" reported on 3 September. The local branch of the opposition Democratic Party said in a statement that it is "immoral" that a powerful party uses its influence to win jobs for its young members at the expense of other job seekers. Pozarevac is Milosevic's home town and power base. Among the firms giving jobs is the Bambi cookie company, which recently helped finance an amusement park built by Milosevic's son Marko. PM HOLBROOKE LAUDS DODIK. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke said in Banja Luka on 2 September that Republika Srpska caretaker Prime Minister Milorad Dodik is "the most promising leader of his generation in his country," Reuters reported. Referring to Dodik's hard-line opponents, Holbrooke added: "Throughout this area there are people who are separatists, racists, criminals, and crooks. These are people not only trying to destroy the  Dayton peace accords but to walk the Serb people of Bosnia-Herzegovina back to the dark ages of six years ago" when Bosnia was still torn by war. Holbrooke proceeded the same day to Mostar, which he called "the most broken city in Europe, a city whose failures exemplify the tragedy of the Balkans." The U.S. diplomat met on 3 September in Zagreb with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, who assured Holbrooke that Croatia will cooperate with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. PM PLAVSIC ON HAGUE LIST? Republika Srpska Justice Minister Milan Trbojevic, citing unspecified "sources," said the Hague-based tribunal has prepared a list of 10 past or present Bosnian Serb officials whom it wants to question in conjunction with a case being prepared against Milosevic for war crimes he allegedly committed in Croatia and Bosnia before the Dayton agreement, "Vesti" reported on 3 September. Trbojevic added that his "sources" tell him that some or all of the 10 might face indictment themselves by the tribunal. The minister noted that he himself is on the list, as are former President Biljana Plavsic, and Momcilo Krajisnik, the former ethnic Serbian representative on the Bosnian joint presidency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 1999). PM CROATIAN PARTIES REAFFIRM PACT. Representatives of six opposition parties signed an agreement in Zagreb on 2 September pledging to continue their alliance against the governing Croatian Democratic Community at least until after the upcoming parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The ceremony was intended to dispel rumors that the coalition is about to break up. The coalition includes all significant opposition parties except those on the far right. PM ITALY DEMOLISHES ALBANIAN BUNKERS. Albanian officials formally thanked Italian military engineers in Durres on 2 September for demolishing 32 of the country's 300,000 concrete bunkers, Reuters reported. Local soccer teams will use the reclaimed space, and the broken concrete will be used to build a marina. Former dictator Enver Hoxha built the bunkers in the 1970s to defend the country against a foreign invasion. The attack never came, but the bunkers continue to litter the landscape. Removing them is a costly and time- consuming task. PM ROMANIA INVESTS IN MOLDOVA'S ENERGY SECTOR. Romania intends to "invest heavily" in Moldova's energy sector, Prime Minister Ion Sturza told journalists in Chisinau on 2 September on returning from that country. Sturza said Bucharest has agreed to write off Chisinau's $13 million electricity debt in exchange for a 51 percent stake in Moldova's Tirex-Petrol state company, RFE/RL's bureau in the Moldovan capital reported. Sturza added that he and President Emil Constantinescu agree that the Moldovan-Romanian basic treaty must be concluded by the end of 1999. MS MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN ATTACKS PRESIDENT LUCINSCHI. In an interview with the governmental Russian-language daily "Nezavisimaya Moldova" on 2 September, parliamentary chairman Dumitru Diacov said President Petru Lucinschi's drive to change the Moldovan system to a presidential one has "tarnished the country's image" abroad. Diacov, who heads the formerly pro-presidential Movement for a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc, said the changes proposed by Lucinschi have nothing in common with the U.S. Constitution; rather, it resembles the constitutions of "under-developed countries, with all their dictatorships and authoritarian rulers." Diacov said that some of Lucinschi's proposals, such as changing the electoral system for parliamentary elections and reducing the number of seats in the legislature, are designed to "deflect attention...from the essence of the draft," which, he said, is "aimed at imposing an authoritarian regime in Moldova of the likes existing in some CIS, African, and Asian countries." MS BULGARIAN VICE PRESIDENT EXPECTS POLITICAL CLIMATE TO IMPROVE. In an interview with BTA on 2 September, Todor Kavaldjiev said he expects the country's political climate to improve after the October local elections because, he said, the "democratic community" will gain access to local government structures. Most of these structures are now dominated by the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party. Kavaldjiev added that his "optimism" is nonetheless "limited" because an "undemocratic" provision in the amended local election law abolished the right of inhabitants of places with a population of fewer than 500 to elect mayors directly. He also said he supported demolishing the mausoleum of communist leader Georgi Dimitrov, noting that Dimitrov opponents such as Nikola Petkov or Krustyu Pastouhov are "not even buried in proper graves where friends and relatives can pay [their] respects." MS PARTIES GALORE IN BULGARIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS. A spokeswoman for the Central Electoral Commission on 2 September said 87 parties and coalitions of parties have so far registered for the October local elections, BTA reported. A total of 94 parties and coalitions have applied for registration. Also on 2 September, controversial Business Bloc leader George Ganchev told journalists that if the Republican Party wins the U.S. presidential elections next year, it will back him if he decides to run for the Bulgarian presidency. MS END NOTE REFORMING THE BULGARIAN MILITARY By Michael Shafir When General Mikho Mikhov criticized the government in an interview with "Standart" late last month, military observers must have wondered whether his days as Bulgarian chief of staff were numbered. Mikhov spoke of "tensions" and "insecurity" among the armed forces stemming from government plans to substantially reduce their number in a bid to achieve integration into NATO. Saying that the plan is "increasingly demoralizing and infuriating" the officer corps, Mikhov noted that the Ministry of Defense's plans to close down military schools would "reduce us to the state of many African and Asian countries." He added that the ministry has no plans to help those discharged under the envisaged reform. Judging by past practice, Mikhov is unlikely to see the reform through. Similar criticism, for similar reasons, triggered the dismissals in 1998 of commander of the construction troops General Radoslav Peshleevsky, commander of the missile and artillery forces General Angel Marin, and two deputy defense ministers, Simeon Petkovski and Rumen Kunchev. On one of those occasions, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov commented that "the fairest way for all officers who do not accept the reform of the army is to resign." It is not difficult to see why these officers are opposed to the envisaged reforms. Schooled in Warsaw Pact doctrine, with its stress on numbers rather than quality, the Bulgarian commanders have no reason to welcome the gradual transformation of the country's armed forces into a significantly smaller and, eventually, professional army that can subsist on a reduced budget. The Kostov government has obstinately pursued the goal of joining NATO ever since it took office, defining that goal as a "strategic" one in its "Bulgaria 2001" program. That plan is based on recommendations that NATO made in its "Plan for Activities of the Candidates for Membership in NATO," issued earlier this year, and outlines the first of two stages envisaged by the military reform. Covering the period 2000-2001, the first stage is viewed by the government as decisive for securing an invitation to join the alliance. The second stage, extending from 2002-204, aims at ensuring that the talks with NATO will be successfully concluded. According to Deputy Defense Minister Velizar Shalamanov, who presented the plan on 19 August, it is estimated that by 2004, Bulgaria will need no more than 300-400 graduates from military academies annually. Hence, it is unrealistic to continue financing five military educational establishments. Rather, a new National Higher Military School is to be founded to train officers and sergeants. Detailing the plan (which must be approved by the government and the parliament) Defense Minster Georgi Ananiev on 31 August said that by 2004, the armed forces will be reduced from their present number of 93,100 to 45,000, and a total of 10,620 officers and 12,530 sergeants will be discharged. Contrary to Mikhov's claim that no help is foreseen for those about to become unemployed, Deputy Defense Minister Zdravko Zafirov said "social adaptation centers" are to be set up in major towns, where training and retraining courses will be offered to such individuals. These are to be paid the equivalent of 20 monthly wages on being released from duty. Military equipment is also to be drastically reduced. By 2004, the number of tanks is to decrease from 1,475 to 750, air defense radars from 230 to 100, "aviation equipment" from 665 to 225 pieces, and "navy equipment" from 149 to 120 pieces. Out of the current 94 army garrisons and 178 other units, only 49 and 71, respectively, will remain by 2004. This will save some 75 million leva (nearly $41 million), according to Ananiev. Further savings of some 40 million leva will be made from the sale of Defense Ministry housing. Another source of revenue is to be the privatization of the country's defense industry. By 2004, according to the plan, the assets of the army's trade companies are to be transferred to private hands. As early as 2002, the ministry expects some 30-40 million leva to be generated as a result of that transfer. The income is to be partly used toward updating the country's arsenal, although in view of Bulgaria's economic situation, purchases of modern technology are not expected before 2010. The privatization of the defense in industry has already been launched, with several companies formerly owned by the ministry being privatized in management-employee buy-outs. The Arsenal company in Kazanluk, the Beta company in Cherven Bryag, and the Optielecton company in Panagyurishte have all been privatized this way, and the VMZ ordnance factory in Sopot may soon follow suit. That, however, may necessitate converting at least part of the production from military to civilian. It also poses problems with regard to licensing and competing on foreign markets, since it is clear that a downsized Bulgarian army is unlikely to become a prospective client. For the time being, the state has kept a 34 percent stake in such major military-industrial plants as Arsenal. Whether it continues to do so will likely depend on both military priorities and on the pace of reform. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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